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December News - 2016 Blanche W. Grady Community Service Award

Grady Award Winners Were 'Epicenter Of Support' After Tornadoes

The Greeneville Sun, Nov. 28, 2016
By Lisa Warren, Staff Writer            
All images courtesy of The Greeneville Sun

The 2016 Blanche W. Grady Community Service Award was presented Thursday evening to longtime civic and church volunteers Allan and Bea Brown, of the Camp Creek community.

Photo:   Scott Niswonger, right, presents the Blanche W. Grady Community Service Award to Allan and Bea Brown, of the Camp Creek community.

The annual community service award was established in 1996 by Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger, his wife, Nikki, and his mother, the late Sharon Niswonger, who died in 2011, to recognize “unsung heroes” of community service.

The award was named in honor of Niswonger family friend Blanche W. Grady, a longtime local educator and community volunteer who died in 2012.

The Niswonger family provides financial support to the awards program in order to allow honorees an opportunity to develop or fund a health-related program to aid the local community. These programs are facilitated through the Laughlin Health Care Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Laughlin Memorial Hospital.

“Each recipient has approximately $5,000 to distribute in support of health care and health care education to be distributed in Greeneville and Greene County. We look forward to working with the 2016 recipient to complete the distribution of funds in support of health care or health care education,” said Betty Weemes, executive director of the Laughlin Health Care Foundation.

In presenting the 2016 Grady Award to the Browns, Scott Niswonger noted that “the volunteers honored through the Grady Award are not individuals whose names are lifted from the front page of the newspaper or who hold public office. They just simply and quietly go about their mission with little fanfare.

“That’s how and why the Grady Award was established,” Niswonger said, “because that’s how Blanche Grady moved through her life helping others.”

The Browns, Niswonger noted, are worthy recipients of the award.

“They have, first, a deep dedication to their faith; second, to their family, and, third, to anyone who needs help no matter what their circumstances,” he said.

Allan Brown is a retired accountant and Bea Brown is a retired educator who spent much of her 30-year teaching career at Camp Creek Elementary School.

“This couple is the perfect example of God’s description of two being as one. They work together, support each other and they are always serving others and exemplifying Christ,” Niswonger said.

Photo:  Allan and Bea Brown, third and fourth from left, stand with members of their family, who surprised them at the event Thursday.

In addition to being immersed in leadership roles within their church and in Christian ministry throughout the area, the Browns have also been longtime active members of the Camp Creek Ruritan Club, having served in numerous leadership roles within the club.

Following the devastating tornadoes that struck the Camp Creek and Horse Creek communities in the spring of 2011, the Browns were “the epicenter of support” for those affected and assisting with recovery efforts, Niswonger said.

Additionally, the couple, along with Wayne Bettis and other members of the Camp Creek Ruritan Club, in conjunction with Free Will Baptist Family Ministries, worked for more than two years following the tornado outbreak to establish a medical clinic in the Camp Creek community.

Today, the clinic, which is located across from the Family Ministries main campus and Camp Creek Elementary School, is busy providing much-needed medical care to residents of the community.

The clinic is owned and operated by the Rogersville-based Rural Health Services Consortium Inc., which operates 11 primary health care medical centers in Northeast Tennessee, including ones in Baileyton and Limestone.

Since its founding in Camp Creek, the medical center has been operating out of a mobile unit. However, construction is now underway on a permanent structure for the medical center. Completion of the project is expected by the spring of 2017, officials noted.

Tom Gregory, chairman of the Laughlin Health Care Foundation, said there were 11 nominees for this year’s Grady Award.

The individuals represent “a diverse collection of clubs, organizations or groups — and that, my friends, makes a great impact in this community,” Gregory said. “These and others in our community are certainly and most assuredly the stewards of giving back.”

Photo:  Tom Gregory, Laughlin Health Care Foundation board chairman, speaks Thursday night.

Upon accepting the surprise award, Allan Brown said, “I’m totally shocked and truthfully at a loss for words. All I can say is ‘thank you.’

“Bea and I don’t want to take credit for anything, though,” Brown added. “The Lord has blessed us in so many ways.”

In addition to honoring the Browns, the Niswonger family also bestowed another surprise honor during the Grady Awards event by recognizing Betty Weemes for her longtime philanthropic community service as executive director of the Laughlin Foundation.

Photo:  Laughlin Health Care Foundation Executive Director Betty Weemes, center, was given a surprise honor at the Grady Awards by Scott M. Niswonger and his daughter, Carla Gentry. Weemes has been executive director of the foundation for 23 years.

As the foundation’s director, Weemes is responsible for raising funds and distributing that money to various health-related causes, not only at Laughlin Hospital but throughout the community. Among those numerous programs are an annual dental and vision clinic that provides service to low-income individuals, a free screening mammogram and breast cancer education program, and a community health education lecture series held monthly at the Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center.

Weemes noted that her 23 years of service as the foundation director have “been an absolute joy” — and added that she is not retiring any time soon.